Labour force
25. Jan 2023
Faroese labour force is the most active in Europe

The Faroese labour force differs from that of other countries in many respects. For example, women, the young and the old are significantly more occupationally active than elsewhere.

The activity rate, which is the labour force in % of the working-age population, is 84.9% for both sexes combined.

Faroese people start working at an early age. The 15-20 age group in the Faroes has an activity rate of 80%, compared to 70% in Iceland and 45% in Denmark. The EU average activity rate for this age group is about 20%.

Similar figures can be seen in the older population. The 65-69 age group has an activity rate of just above 70%, and the 70-74 age group has a rate of more than 30%, which is well above the corresponding figures for other countries.

Combining all age groups from 15 to 74, the activity rate for Faroese men is 87% compared to an EU average of 70%. The combined female activity rate in the Faroes is 82% compared to an EU average of 58%.


The differences between the Faroes and other countries across the 25-60 age range are less pronounced than in the younger and older age groups.


Much greater differences can be seen for female workers. As seen in the graph below, all female age groups in the Faroes have a significantly higher activity rate than elsewhere.


Comparisons with 35 countries in Europe

The chart below, compiled by Eurostat, compares the activity rate of the entire labour force (ages 15-74) in the Faroes with that of 35 other European nations. The Faroese figures have been compiled in accordance with Eurostat methodology and are thus comparable with those of the 35 nations covered by Eurostat.

The Faroe Islands have by far the highest activity rate for both sexes, as has been the case for many years. One aspect that has changed in recent years is that the difference between the Faroes and the other countries is growing. Whereas the Faroes and Iceland used to compete for the top spot, the difference between these two countries has increased in favour of the Faroes in recent years. The activity rate for Faroese men now stands at 87% compared to 82% for Icelandic men. The figure for women is 82% and 75%, respectively.

Another notable feature is that the Faroes also have the smallest activity rate difference between the sexes.


About the labour force survey

The labour force includes all occupationally active people such as employees, independent traders and employers, unemployed people looking for work and people who carry out unpaid work in a family business. The inactive population includes full-time students with no income from work, people who due to illness, reduced work capacity or similar reasons are not part of the labour market and people who have left the labour market due to old age or other reasons.

The annual labour force survey is conducted in accordance with the general guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a tripartite United Nations agency. This allows for direct comparisons between the Faroese figures and those from other nations.

The labour force is determined based on information derived from administrative sources such as the national register, the tax register, the VAT register, the unemployment system and student registers administered by the Ministry of Education.

Spot checks are made through phone interviews with about 1,000 of the individuals who are not included in the administrative sources. The survey and the phone interviews cover permanent residents of the Faroe Islands aged between 15 and 74. Everyone who carried out more than one hour of occupational work during the one-week survey period in November is classified as being in active employment, regardless of whether the work was paid or unpaid. Those who do not have a job are only classified as unemployed if they are actively looking for work and are ready to start work within two weeks. Those who are neither in active employment nor unemployed are classified as occupationally inactive.